"I"m not doing any better," my client says to me, seated across from me on the treatment table. Shoulders and head rolled forward, back slumped-he is bummed. Inside my heart sinks, wishing it weren't so. I take a gradual deep breath, try to ground with the earth. But on the outside, I must remain un-phased. Confident.
"Ok. So...tell me about your nighttime pain. How has that been the past few days?" I ask. (And deep down hoping that there has been at least some tiny change in symptoms.)
"Its the same." he replies.
These are the moments which are so hard-to not know why. To wonder- am I missing something? I want nothing more than for all my clients to progress.
In these moments of doubt, I try to remind myself that I am along with them on their journey. Its not my journey. Or my pain. And I'm not responsible for my client's journey or their pain.
These are the unglorious moments of my job as a PT. When theres not progress.
It doesn't happen often but when it does, its hard. By nature I am a healer and I want to see progress.
I explain to my client how perhaps a switch to another therapist, or doctor, or refer back to the same doctor for more imaging/tests may help. I want to help him see all the possibilities.
As my client leaves, he looks me in the eye and says "Thanks for all you have tried, Zoya." He reaches out for a confident appreciative handshake. "Your welcome. I wish I could do more" I reply.
"No, I appreciate all you've done. I wish I knew what was going on. Why this isn't getting better" He responds.
After my client leaves the clinic, I sit at my computer and give a cleansing sigh. I remind myself that you win some, you lose some and some people need a different approach than what I offer.
This narrative is not about one specific client, but rather an example about a dialogue and scene which occasionally happens in physical therapy.